The Other Tremblant
Long and widely proclaimed as Eastern Canada's skiing mecca, Mont-Tremblant,
Que., is one of the highest peaks in the Laurentians. It is host to
international ski races, caterer to year-round, high-end tourism, site
of a formerly glorious Grand Prix racecourse -- and location of the
village and lakeside cottage my parents drove me and my sister to every
weekend when I was young.
It is now possible to buy a million-dollar condo in the shiny new resort
at the base of the once-trembling, now-dormant peak. But back in 1964,
for the price of a cheap used car today, you could get the 1918-vintage
clapboard cabin with no water, power or basement, but with a half-acre
of shoreline property that became my summer playground.
At first, it was frightful. Spiders, snakes, squirrels taunted
and haunted me, a naïve city boy. I couldn't swim. The neighbour's
dogs terrorized me. Deer and bears were out there. It was a wild
Friendship changed everything. Neighbouring kids became family and
the fun began. I learned to swim, row, paddle, float a raft, even waterski.
I grew up there, all summer and every weekend, every year until snowfall.
Mont-Tremblant was a
typical Québécois village — like most before and after
the Quiet Revolution — where the Catholic church, the Letendre brothers'
general store, Matt's Texaco and the post office were the cultural contact
points. But the attraction of a 968-metre high mountain — with ski
trails named Nansen, Sissy Schuss and the Flying Mile — proved irresistible
to well-enough-off Montréalers. They, and we, joined the two-hour
speedburn up the Decarie Expressway, along the Metropolitan, and up
the Laurentian Autoroute.
Laval, St-Jérôme, St-Sauveur-des-Monts, Ste-Adèle,
Ste-Agathe-des-Monts, St-Faustin, St-Jovite — these signs flashed
past my backseat window en route to Mont-Tremblant. We called
it "Up North," even though it was due northwest.
Recession, government takeover and investment by deep-pocketed
commercial developers brought bankruptcy, embarrassment and environmental
controversy to "the Hill." But today, it booms. It
is Aspen, Saint Moritz and Whistler duplicated. Pedalboats, powerboats
and sailboats; slalom skiers, racecar drivers and mountain bikers;
blues fests, art exhibits and gardening contests — the place
has become a gigantic year-round playground.
My visits now are all too short. But I do dream of a week
or two spent lakeside with my family, a good book and a swimsuit.
That is the Tremblant I know and recommend.
Eric Harris, Managing Editor
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